Officials clear abortion woes

A week after news of optional abortion coverage in the University-sponsored insurance plan sparked debate across campus, interviews with University officials reveal students might have been debating a skewed version of the plan.

Under the plan, “medically necessary” abortions are included in the basic $1,234 coverage, said Michael Marsh, a board of trustees member.

The clarification was confirmed by Teri Sharp, the University’s director of media relations, and Tom Trimboli, general counsel of the University.

“The abortions that are medically necessary are covered by the basic policy and nobody tried to take that out,” Trimboli said.

Sharp was paraphrased in The BG News last week saying students who did not pay the extra $60 would not have abortion coverage under any circumstance.

She had been responding to questions about the e-mail Edward Whipple, vice president of student affairs, sent to students last Monday about the insurance.

Sharp said she did not remember the part of the conversation which led to the quotation and wasn’t able to read the article where it appeared. She attributed the difference to a “misunderstanding.”

Many students, including Raquel Colon, the undergraduate member of the Board of Trustees, have said they heard from various sources that students who did not pay the $60 would not be covered for any abortion.

Colon said she interpreted the terms of the policy from an e-mail Linda Dobb, the board’s secretary and University executive vice president, sent her.

Colon said she has not been able to discuss the issue with Dobb since the board’s meeting March 3.

“We didn’t discuss this at any of sessions that I participated in,” Colon said of that meeting, “it was done during executive session.”

Neither Colon nor Korine Steinke, a graduate student on the board, were at that session, which are closed to the public.

Lauren Walter, co-president of Creed on Campus, said she was surprised to hear some abortions would be covered under the plan. She said her impression to the contrary came from Whipple’s e-mail and “hearsay.”

Chelsea Lambdin, a former USG Senator, said she “had absolutely no clue” that necessary abortions would be covered.

But Gina Tortorella, president of Falcons for Life, said she was aware of the distinction and that it was “pretty clear in the plan.”

“Of course it would be covered,” Tortorella said, “because it’s necessary.”

But, “I’ve never heard of a case where an abortion was necessary,” she said.

Whipple’s e-mail said “no portion of the premium for basic coverage will go toward elective abortion coverage,” but his wording and the crossfire of student opinions over the week apparently still confused students.

Whipple was not available for comment yesterday.